Tom Strode – Baptist Press
COURTESY OF 40 DAYS FOR LIFE/COALITION FOR LIFE
Update: The Huffington Post assessed the “dramatic toll” that recent pro-life laws have taken on abortion clinics, with Arizona leading the way. Meanwhile, the abortion battle has gone digital as more states ban abortions by telemedicine.
(BP) For Abby Johnson, the closing of a single Planned Parenthood center demonstrated her dramatic reversal from abortion clinic director to leading pro-life advocate.
But for pro-lifers throughout the United States, it marked another exhibit in a hopeful trend—abortion centers are shutting down at an unprecedented rate. The total so far this year is 44, according to a pro-life organization that tracks clinic operations.
None was more telling for Johnson than the mid-July closing of the Planned Parenthood center in Bryan, Texas. It came less than four years after Johnson, burdened by her involvement with abortion, walked out of that clinic as its director and into the offices of the Coalition for Life.
“Knowing that the former abortion clinic I once ran is now closing is the biggest personal victory of my life,” Johnson said in a written statement after the announcement of the shutdown. “From running that facility, to then advocating for its closure, and now celebrating that dream … it shows that my life has indeed come full circle.”
Since her celebrated conversion from Planned Parenthood director, Johnson has started a ministry to help workers leave the abortion industry. She has pledged, as she said in July, to “fight until every abortion clinic in this country has shut its doors.”
This year, 42 clinics that provided surgical abortions have shut their doors, and two that offered chemical abortions by drugs also have closed, according to Operation Rescue, which monitors closings and health and safety violations by clinics nationwide. That number far surpasses the 25 surgical clinics shutdown last year and the 30 in 2011, by Operation Rescue’s count. While others estimate a smaller number of closings, the pattern is clear.
Some of the shutdowns have been of major clinics. For instance, Virginia’s No. 1 abortion provider closed, The Washington Post reported in July. NOVA Women’s Healthcare in Fairfax, Va., shut down after state and local governments enacted regulations the abortion provider appeared unable to meet. The northern Virginia clinic performed 3,066 abortions in 2012 and 3,567 in 2011.
The reasons given for the upswing in closings are varied even among pro-lifers. They include:
– the increasing state regulation and oversight of clinics;
– a growth in pro-life opinion and activity, and
– a decline in the abortion rate.
In some cases, clinics have shut down when abortion doctors retired or were no longer licensed.
State legislatures enacted 69 pro-life laws this year, according to a report released Thursday (Sept. 5) by Americans United for Life. In all, 48 states considered about 360 such proposals in 2013, AUL reported.
The legislative action this year continued a recent trend in states: 70 “life-affirming measures” became law in 2011 and 38 in 2012, according to AUL.
Some measures have targeted making the procedure and clinics safer for women, and have helped escalate the number of clinic shutdowns. This year, states such as Alabama, North Carolina and Texas passed varied laws either requiring abortion clinics to meet the same health and safety standards as outpatient surgical centers, or authorizing the state to enforce such requirements. Also, in 2013, North Dakota and Wisconsin joined Alabama and Texas in mandating abortion doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals.